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Delta Force: The Secret to Legendary Customer Support

The pride of Harvest is our customer support. We believe the success of Harvest begins and ends with you, our customers. We’re very excited about our new Harvest Support site, and we have an outstanding frontline support team that talks to 100’s of customers every week. Many questions are quick to answer, but some require more technical knowledge.

Since last summer, we’ve been experimenting with a tiered rotation of team members into bugfix roles: the Fireteam and Delta Force. This system is great for small teams with stretched technical resources, and allows for fast support response without having a bloated support staff.

Fireteam: Ready-Team-Fire-Assist

The concept of the fireteam is based on the need for tactical flexibility in infantry operations. A fireteam is capable of autonomous operations as part of a larger unit.

A bug discovered by a customer will go through a couple levels of support before arriving in the hands of a developer. After the initial support contact, the ticket is handed to a Fireteam member. This role is shared by two people at Harvest. A Fireteam member has a bit more technical knowledge of Harvest’s features. Often the Fireteam can answer a customer’s question without getting the development team involved. Sometimes the Fireteam can even make a small change to correct a bug.

Classified: Delta Force Two-Soldier Squadron

If a problem requires more investigation it is passed to an elite team of code warriors – Delta Force. Sometimes the Fireteam consults with Delta Force to get answers to detailed questions. More often than not a problem that has gotten this far will require more investigation by Delta Force. The ticket will be assigned to a Delta Force team member who will research what is amiss.

Delta Force is comprised of two developers: a primary and a backup. The primary will typically spend his entire week investigating and fixing bugs. The secondary is there to support the primary team member, picking up the slack on a busy week and reviewing fixes coded by the primary team member. Our four developers rotate through these roles one week at a time. The secondary is the previous week’s primary, which helps with knowledge transfer for ongoing problems.

Delta Force was brought about to protect the rest of the development team from the daily issues that arise in Harvest. These developers can focus on new features, allowing faster and less distracted development. The whole development team is available if Delta Force has questions. In the unfortunate event of major systems problems, the entire development team rallies.

Weapons of Choice

Our tools are Zendesk, an internal task management app called Kaizen, Errbit for automated bug notification, chat and email. We are always looking for ways to improve our process. For instance, our new junior developer will be heavily involved in the support process. Kaizen, our custom issue tracking and collaboration tool, is more appropriate for feature development than bug tracking.  We are looking to improve our bug and issues tracking. So far we are considering GitHub Issues, Redmine or a self-built tool. For emergencies during off hours, we have an open line of communication on GroupMe‘s group texting service. This allows available team members to spring into action at a moment’s notice, and is especially useful when team members are not checking email.

To those of you running software companies: What tools and processes have you found successful for handling support and tracking issues? How do you carve out focused development time while also providing responsive support to your customers? We’d love to hear your ideas!

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This was posted in Behind-the-Scenes, Code.
  • I use Redmine as part of a larger team that I work with. It is great for long running ongoing projects and handles bugs and features equally well. It is super easy to setup and permission appropriately and can even be configured to work with your source control repository so you can directly link tickets to svn or git commits.

    I wholeheartedly recommend Redmine. If you need help customizing it, there are plenty of people who can help with that, too – Eric Davis of comes to mind as he was previously a core team member on the project and there are plenty of others as well.

  • I’ll throw in my vote for Redmine as well. Issue tracking via web and email, version control system browsing, wiki pages… it does pretty much you need for tracking development.

    On the customer support side of things, Zendesk is popular but I like HelpSpot, a self-hosted system. Same basic idea as Zendesk but you get more control over it and it’s much cheaper, especially for larger teams.

  • We drink our own champagne…give us a try: DovetailCRM!

    Find out more at dovetail software dot com

  • Your setup seems pretty neat!

    As a web development agency, we’ve started using Teambox which is great for keeping track of bugs and general tasks. We use it throughout the development process of our clients’ websites. Worth taking a look at – it increased our productivity a *lot*

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